#TRUESTsem Schedule, Assignments, and Passwords

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I hope you’re excited for #TRUESTsem, my first BookDeeply event, a virtual book club meets free writing seminar. Learn more about BookDeeply in general and TRUESTsem in particular here.

(Thanks, Aften, for the name inspiration!)

Schedule and Passwords

Here’s the schedule for this month’s BookDeeply, along with the passwords to unlock the posts. You’ll want to read the chapters before reading my post.

  1. Truest chapters 1–5: October 10
    1. No Password Needed
  2. Truest chapters 6–10: October 12
    1. Password: chapter 5, fifth word of the last sentence. rescue
  3. Truest chapters 11–15: October 15
    1. Password: “The song was like an _______” anthem
  4. Truest chapters 16–20: October 18
    1. Password: “How could brilliance love a _____?” blur
  5. Truest chapters 21–25: October 20
    1. Password: The name of Silas’ poem truest
  6. Truest chapters 26–30: October 24
    1. Last word of chapter 30. yes
  7. Truest chapters 31–35: October 25
    1. Last word of chapter 34. truth

Note: each password is a single word with no capital letters.

Remember that you can join the discussion after the fact, too! All you need is a copy of the book. On October 15th’s post, I’ll ask if anyone wants to do a live hangout or group chat at the end of the month.

Assignments

I’ll be dividing the assignments into two tracks. The first is for plot, and the second is for character and theme. You can participate in one, both, or neither.

BookDeeply Track A: Plot Marginalia

If you’ve got your own copy of the book and have no qualms about writing in it, I want you to have a pencil with you when you’re reading so you can annotate the reversals. In the margins, you’ll draw the following symbols:

+ Character comes up with new goal
– Character doesn’t get what they want
-> character gets what they want

Draw a PLUS SIGN when a character has a new goal. Underline that goal or state in the margins.
Draw an ARROW when they get what they want. Underline the achievement or state in the margins.
Draw a MINUS when they don’t get what they want. Underline the failure or state in the margins.

BookDeeply Track B: Character and Theme Notebook

Divide a notebook page into six boxes (2 columns of 3 rows) and label them:
1. Conflict/Motivations
2. Questions
3. Predictions
4. Answers
5. Motifs
6. Possible themes

Depending on how you write notes, you could have a page per section or a page per chapter. You could also have a page for each of these categories, for example listing questions as you find them on one page, including a page or chapter number. It depends on what you’d rather see at a glance: what goes into a single chapter or section, or how often a literary element appears or how it progresses.

1—Conflict/Motivations
For each chapter, I’d like you to list a new conflict that comes up while you’re reading. It can be as simple as “West vs Dad” or as complicated as “West feels humiliated when she first meets Silas—why is he acting weird?” Sometimes it’s difficult to figure out a character’s motivations. In these cases, look at conflict. There’s no conflict between characters who want the same things! Some characters might seem like they want the same thing, but their approaches clash. If character motivations are obvious, include them in this square.

2–4—Questions, Predictions, Answers
In one box, keep a list of questions that each chapter asks but doesn’t answer. In another, include predictions of what might happen next or what the answers to those questions might be. When you come across answers, note what chapter the question appeared in.

5–6—Motifs, Themes
Include another box for motifs. Motifs are like miniature themes that can be stated in one word. For example, “Truth” is a motif. “Truth is worth killing for” is a theme. Themes are stated in a sentence. In stories that have a central theme, characters will prove or disprove that theme.

The theme is the thesis, and the story is the argument. It’s difficult to really know what the theme is right at the beginning, but in some cases, the theme is stated outright (this is especially true in movies). In the theme box, write down lines that might be the novel’s thematic statement.


If you’re participating in the read along, read chapters 1–5 this week and come back on Saturday for the discussion. If you’ve never commented on my blog before, your comment might not appear until Sunday. I’ll be at NerdCon and might not have time to approve new comments.

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Help Me Name This Cool Thing.

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I’ve been playing around with the idea of starting a virtual book club with live chats and online hangouts, but I wasn’t really sure how I could pull it off.

Later, I thought it would be cool to deconstruct Jackie Lea Sommer’s debut novel TRUEST on my blog, but somehow still support Jackie.

Then I thought, why not combine the two?

I’m launching #TRUESTsem in two weekends. Here’s the idea, which you may have already seen if you follow me on Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, or Facebook:

I’m going to do a TRUEST read-along and writing seminar in October! TRUEST is a contemporary YA novel, and I’ll be blogging a deconstruction of it, but you’ll have to own or borrow a copy to read the later posts. If you write or want to write contemporary or literary YA, you won’t want to miss this!

We’ll start on October 10, and you can join in or stop by at any time, because you’ll unlock sessions with passwords found in the book. Tweet or post using #TRUESTsem if you’re going to join!

If enough people join the writing seminar, I’ll host some online hangouts so we can discuss the book, just like a book club. Then participants can vote on a genre or a debut novel being published in the spring for our next session in 2017.

Here’s how to join:

  • Subscribe to my blog if you haven’t already.
  • Buy or borrow a copy of TRUEST. That’s it—the cost of this seminar is to support a debut author.
  • Tell your friends to do the above! You can use the image at the bottom of this post on your social media pages. Also check out Jackie’s blog and social media for some great TRUEST memes with pretty images and quotes from the book.
  • If you know English teachers, have them encourage their students to join! (Some books may include adult material—I’ll give a parent rating for each book during the first session.)
  • Start reading at any time and chat about it (no spoilers!) using #TRUESTsem on social media.
  • Take notes!
  • Come to my blog on October 10 for the first post.
  • Comment on the blog posts if you’ve got questions or would like to join a hangout. If enough people respond, I’ll send out a survey with possible dates & times. The group hangout(s) will be private so we can discuss the books without spoiling it for anybody.

Here’s what I need help with:

  • I need a catchy umbrella term for these writing seminars / souped-up book clubs. If you comment below, you’re giving me permission to possibly use the term in future posts.

I’m really excited for this, and I’m hoping we can do it again in March if you miss this one! However, if you grab TRUEST later, the blog posts will still be on my blog. Just unlock with words from the book!

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Friday Reads: THE CONSPIRACY OF US by Maggie Hall

My resolution for 2015 is all about organization. That means introducing new blog series, switching some style guides, and improving reader experience! You’ll notice that “Write Lara Write” is now “Write, Edit, Repeat.” Same URL to keep things simple (writelarawrite.wordpress.com), but a new name, since this blog is about the crafts of writing and editing, not my personal writing site (which is coming…eventually).

And since it’s not just me anymore, I’m opening the blog up for guest posts! Apply here.

Friday Reads is a new series on Write, Edit, Repeat. I’ll only be blogging about my favorites (no room for negativity here), and I’ll end with a writing prompt. Be sure to subscribe if you haven’t already, and then you won’t miss out. Adult fiction, YA fiction, MG, graphic novels, picture books—I’ll cycle through them all, sometimes posting monthly, sometimes weekly.

For the archive of Friday Reads posts, visit bit.ly/LaraReads.

Today I’m reviewing The Conspiracy of Us, a YA romantic thriller by Maggie Hall, and one of the most highly anticipated YA reads of 2015.

First Impressions

First Impressions walks through my method of judging books by their title, cover, and cover copy before I pick up a book.

The Title

“The Conspiracy of Us” is a strange, yet evocative title (I’ll be using the word “evocative” a lot when talking about covers and titles—sorry/not sorry). The word “conspiracy” suggests the thriller genre akin to The Da Vinci Code; “us” suggests romance or a close relationship. Since this is a romantic thriller, the title is extremely effective with its word choice.

The Cover

Consp

If you couldn’t tell this was a thriller from the word “conspiracy,” you’ll get the worldwide-thriller vibe from the cover. The city overlays, the compass—travel. The skewed phantom text shadowing the title implies mystery or possibly some chase scenes.

And we’ve got the subject, a teen girl in a gorgeous ball gown. Intrigue! Mystery! Travel!

Then you look at the tagline: “An ancient puzzle. A trail of clues. An unwanted destiny.”

So basically a teen girl is part Chosen One, part Indiana Jones. If there’s remotely a connection to Indiana Jones or Han Solo, I am so there.

The Blurb

Instead of breaking down the blurb like I did with After I Do and Maybe in Another Life, we’re going to do the 69 test instead, because it was such a great representation of the book, that’s what the publisher put on the back cover:

Elisa led me to a three-way mirror, where a girl who hardly looked like me stared back in triplicate. In the silver gown, the girl looked more serious, more elegant, then they changed me into the gold dress again, and she was glamorous, striking.

I found myself hoping fiercely that my mom would let me stay for the ball, and even a little longer. Meet the Saxons, find out more about my father’s family and the rest of the Circle. To feel like I belonged in this strange, fascinating world.

“You have to choose eventually.” Elisa smiled. In the mirror, the gold sequins shimmered. But there was something about the silver. It belonged on me.

Aimee unzipped the gold dress and left me to get out of it, following Elisa downstairs to wrap the silver one. I watched it go. I couldn’t believe that, just like that, it was going to be mine.

I was about step out of the gold dress when I heard footsteps coming up the stairs. “Elisa?” I said. “Aimee?” There was no answer.

In case it was one of the men come to escort me down, I zipped the dress up.

The girls were nowhere in sight, but the man who had let us in stood at the top of the staircase.

“Sorry, I’m not ready yet,” I said. I smiled at him, and he reached into his jacket pocket.

He pulled out something that, for a moment, didn’t register. It was too discordant with the marble floors, the dresses, the Bach chiming from the speakers.

It was a knife.

Read more about Maggie’s 69 Test here. And participate in #70Pit in July to share your page 69 or 70 and possibly win edits or get agent requests!

Reading

This was a fun novel to read. If you go in expecting the prophecy and Chosen One tropes (they’re implied right there on the cover), then you probably won’t expect this to be something that it’s not. What it is, is fun. And there really are similarities to Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, with the Chosen One storyline like The Mummy Returns. Like those movies, there’s slow building romance (yes, please), plenty of sexual tension (all PG-13), some melodrama in parts, chase scenes, murderous bad guys, kinda murderous good guys, and adventure.

Those movies are called popcorn flicks. Not quite sure what the book equivalent is called, but keep your arms inside the vehicle and enjoy the ride.

Recommendations

If you like The Conspiracy of Us, you might like books by Ally Carter.

Writing Prompt

The main character, Avery West, is destined to be important, but she resists her destiny. Write about either 1) a time you were anxious about an outcome you knew was coming but had no power over, or 2) a time you rejected someone else’s plan for you.

#CPPitch—Choose your Top 5

If you entered #CPPitch before September 1st, you may choose your five top picks below. It might be a good idea to have the list open in another tab while making your list here. Remember that you can choose from any category. On September 3rd or 4th, you’ll receive an email from me with the query letter and first 250 words of their MS. Reply to that email with the names of your top 3 choices by 11:59 on September 6th.

On September 8th, I’ll email everyone with their CP matches. Depending on everyone’s top 3, you might be critiquing someone’s MS, and a different person might be critiquing yours. That isn’t to say that you can’t ask other people to be your CP! The point of CPPitch is to give you a sampler before you pick a CP, and also to make sure that as many people as possible get a critique partner.

All CPPitch-ers have been matched! Thank you for participating.